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Christchurch CEO put on leave; acting CEO appointed; Parker agrees to appoint Crown Manager for building consents; Manager can direct Council staff

Christchurch CEO put on leave; acting CEO appointed; Parker agrees to appoint Crown Manager for building consents; Manager can direct Council staff

By Bernard Hickey

The Christchurch City Council was in turmoil on Wednesday afternoon as it announced its controversial CEO Tony Marryatt was taking leave and Mayor Bob Parker had agreed to appoint a Crown Manager to direct the council to issue building consents.

The decision to put Marryatt on leave came after it emerged Parker and councillors had not be told by staff that consents had been issued that may not have been up to code. The Government later said audits of new buildings that had recently been consented would be conducted to ensure they were safe and did not need to be demolished.

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee, Local Government Minister Chris Tremain, and Building and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson, said they welcomed the decision by Mayor Bob Parker to seek the appointment at a council meeting tomorrow of a Crown Manager to address consenting issues.

“I am pleased that Christchurch City Council has recognised the gravity of the situation and that a motion will now be put to the council to invite the Government to appoint a Crown Manager,” Brownlee said.

“This decision will ensure they get a robust consenting system in place, and is a constructive and welcome step forward," he said.

Tremain said he looked forward to meeting the council tomorrow to discuss the terms of reference for the Crown Manager.

“The Crown Manager will have the authority to direct the council to address issues relating to consenting," Tremain said. “The Council will be required by legislation to cooperate with the Crown Manager, comply with the Manager’s directions, and comply with any reasonable request to provide relevant information," he said.

Williamson said he had instructed a specialist team from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) to continue working with the council, as they had been doing over the past two weeks.

Brownlee said the move to appoint a Crown Manager aimed to ensure the Council regained IANZ accreditation as soon as possible.

'We weren't told everything'

Meanwhile the Christchurch City Council said in a statement a planned meeting with government ministers later this afternoon had been cancelled and a special meeting would take place tomorrow at 12.45 pm to invite Tremain to appoint a Crown Manager.

“The situation around building consents is serious, and it has become apparent that Councillors have not been well served by the information that has been provided to us," Parker said.

Almost in passing, the council said Chief Executive Tony Marryatt was "taking leave pending further discussions with the Council."

General Manager City Environment, Jane Parfitt, would be acting Chief Executive, it said.

A clearly shocked Parker told a later news conference the council was very disappointed by the lack of information coming from its staff.

''What we are discovering is that apparently signficant pieces of information crucial to this organisation functioning in the way that we expect it to function do not seem to have reached the governance team. That's an appalling situation to find yourself in as govering body .. and that's why we have taken immediate action,'' Parker said

Fear over new buildings

Brownlee says the Government would seek to have an audit of recent building consents issued by Christchurch City Council to ensure they were up to the required standards.

"IANZ says it has identified issues with technical processing that means building consents might not meet the requirements of the Building Code," Brownlee said.

“The potential for there to be sub-standard buildings as a result of a less than adequate consenting process is a huge worry to the Government," he said.

Tremain said one of the first tasks of the new Crown Manager would be an audit, including a technical review, of the consents issues.

Williamson said he had been advised initial assessments had shown it was "highly unlikely any recently consented buildings would have to be demolished, but we will need to check to be sure."


Insurance Council NZ Insurance Manager John Lucas was quoted as saying demolition of buildings could not be ruled out.

'If insurers have started work on developing a new property, rebuilding a house or repairing a house, and then partway through that construction period there's a delay because they find out later the building consent was issued incorrectly, then that's going to stop that project,'' Lucas was quoted as saying in The Press.

''It may cost the parties a lot of money because the project may have to be demolished and rebuilt, or there may be some very expensive remediation costs involved,'' he said.

Non-compliant foundations were the most likely to be an issue, he said.

(Updated with evening statement from Brownlee about audits of consents to ensure buildings are safe and don't need to be demolished, quotes from Parker and comments from ICNZ on demolition)

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Eventually, when things get dire enough, reviewing management/leadership competence is the only option left.
Christchurch is hopefully just a start.

dirt, rug, carpet, sweep, darkness, bottom of swamp

More likely a medieval morality play with Saints Gerry, Maurice and Chris casting that sinner Tony Marryatt into the pit where he will surely pay for his sins and those of all councils for all eternity.

There will be some Hughey hype shortly, no doubt, but let's be logical:
The CEO isn't the one with the Code competence - he can only repeat an assurance from some qialified subordinate, although of course the buck stops etc.
So an extraordinary pressure came on an edifice which was already under extraordinary pressure (BIA to DBH, essentially a Govt backside-cover, complete with prescriptive fine detail). It attempted to raise it's output - and there are three potential problems with doing that - overlooking things due to speed, overlooking things under verbal (unlogged) urging, and unskilled ring-in labour not seeing what it doesn't know to look for.
The Govt has already stolen into the night once (leaky homes) and can do so again; worse, it can still blame the Council this way. Nobody will have willingly cut corners, is my bet. Be interesting to follow the rice-grains.......

This is certainly about leaky homes not the "rebuild". It is essential for the government narrative that CCC be seen to be "bad". In that respect the narrative has gone from IANZ's own press release in which they say that CCC's record-keeping was deficient to the now persistent MSM "fact" that dangerous buildings have been consented. Would love to see some definitive evidence that IANZ have assessed specific consents for code compliance.
The must read about consenting and leaky buildings is Peter Cresswell's series at Not PC. The relevant articles have no perma-link so use this link and scroll down to the articles starting in November 2009.
In order for there to be no inquiry back into central governments actual role in leaky buildings it is essential to maintain the story that councils are useless and need discipline. This debacle is tailor-made for that purpose. BTW I was wrong about IANZ, they are a government agency too.
CCC has no choice in what happens next. The Building Act allows government to appoint the commissioner unilaterally - albeit with 20 working days notice. By going through the charade of agreeing to let the commissioner be appointed, agreeing that they have been "bad" etc CCC will secure the massive taxpayer funding they need right now. 
On the plus side Jane Parfitt will be fantastic as Acting CEO - she should have been appointed ahead of Tony Marryatt last time.

Since the IANZ spokesman has been very, very clear it was not the speed of consents they cared about, it was the record keeping (being unable to prove that the consent was to a sound building). I am not entirely how the Crown Manager directing the council to issue building consents solves the problem.
I read this as blame game distractions while the record keeping gets brought up to standard.

How many different professions within council need to come together to get a proper and correct consent issued?

Three: a planner to ensure compliance with RMA & City/District Plan; a person to research and write up the Project Information Memorandum; and a building consent officer to check construction plans against the Building Code.
Add sundry admin support to receipt fees, create work files etc

If there is any transparency in this move I would expect that planners, researchers, and inspectors will also be publicly scrutinized too

So who exactly are these IANZ geezers?
A bunch of over paid middle manager types by the look of it.
Started off as a Laboratory Certification govt department, and now they have the power to tell a major council it can't issue building consents?   They have a total staff of 40.
What a Joke.

International Accreditation New Zealand (IANZ) has been appointed by the Chief Executive of the Department of Building and Housing (now part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment) as the building consent accreditation body under section 248 of the Building Act 2004.

No. 136: Assessing the liquefaction risk for land developments in Canterbury
28 September 2012: Guidelines for investigating and assessing subdivisions on flat land in Canterbury have been revised by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s engineering advisory group.
Wonder how far back there 'problems' go?

The Insurance Council wants an independent audit of consented Christchurch buildings -

On the evening Radio NZ news, Gerry Brownlie said no audit needed to happen and people should stop scaremongering.

Auckland Council CEO is leaving later this year, now I wonder...

FYI (Updated with evening statement from Brownlee about audits of consents to ensure buildings are safe and don't need to be demolished)

Also updated with Insurers' fears about foundations and potential for demolition of new buildings...

There are at least four entangled issues here - some small light for the non-locals.
1 - Bob Parker and Tony Maryatt are mutually dependent.  Bob is a wonderful voice and is great at pressing flesh and saying the words.  But he depends on the Tonys of the world to feed him the lines, do the detail work, and keep the troops in line.  We've clearly reached the end of this particular tramline.
2 - Tony Maryatt has until mid next year left on his munificent contract, and according to a local developer who I had a good yak to around this time last year, and who had had a coupla hours of Tony's time recently then, he (Tony) was dispirited, tired and generally over it all, back then.  My guess is he will negotiate a golden parachute, and buy a small island somewhere with it (as long is it has a golf course).  That will at least spare some other unlucky TLA and their ratepayers from having a third-time-lucky Tony appear at Their helm.
3 - The consenting and general administrative competence of the Council are frankly not up to it.  Too many time-servers and box-tickers, waiting for lunchtime and then retirement, and not necessarily in that order.   Many parts of the services are in fact world-class - the SCIRT team (water - potable, black and grey) are brilliant, the Parks and Beaches crew ditto, and those of us who have frequent contact with them have only praise.  But these are, by their nature, job and task focussed, are led by people like engineers who actually know how to build stuff, and are sadly not representative of the rest.  The rest, if put out to pasture or shipped to the knackers' yard for recycling (Soylent Green) would not be missed.  I doubt if anyone would actually notice.
4 - And hanging over and around all this pile of deep doo-doo, are the powerful execs of ECan (Dame Margaret Bazley), CERA (Roger Sutton) and the powers behind those thrones - Gerry and Steven.   So there will be an overall opportunity for a little dabble at re-organisation and scene-stealing - just as Key has managed to pull off in Auckland.  A threefer:  neutralise the opposition,  promise a Brighter Future (with choo-choos, perhaps, even), and not actually have to spend too much to buy the next election.....
If I were Jane Parfitt (the to-be-acting CEO), I'd be at the Grand Dame's door in a heartbeat.  Friends close, enemies closer.....

The Checkpont interview with Gerry is worth a listen if only for the last 5 seconds when he gets snippy with IANZ. In the interview he is agnostic about the need for a comprehensive audit but in reality it will have to be done now:

  • When IANZ withdrew accreditation they effectively said that CCC's processes have been so bad historically that no consent issued in the last year or so can be guaranteed safe
  • IANZ did conduct substantive testing (auditing term) on a sample of consents but it appears to have been small and IANZ do not appear to have been comfortable extrapolating from it. Nevertheless they have allowed the media to read whatever they wanted into the story and thereby painted the government into a corner.

This may turn out to be an embarrassing distraction so I can understand Gerry being a bit hacked off at IANZ.
BTW is it possible to get hold of the full report ? TV3 and The Press both claim to have it.

Engineers are very risk adverse ppl, being one myself.  Its really simple, get something wrong and ppls well being is at risk At the least money is lost and being professional qualified engineers their Personal indemity insurance will be looked on with great avarice by pollies, councils and lawyers looking for a payout, at the same time there  is great pressure to do this fast, and Im sure cheap, its really a no win for them.
Risk management is one of my engineering things Hugh an indeed many engineers....engineers understand risk and impact, its real, ppl can die. Commercial ppl and economists have no place in an engineering exercise, especially as they have no expertese in the problem.
Commerical ppl and economists might lose a bit of money if their gamble doesnt work...if someone dies they'll be side stepping fast, they always do.  The buck stops with the engineer.  He or she is the one who'll be in court and maybe jail if it goes wrong and the design is shown to be in-adequate for the "foreseeable" event...of course hind sight is always 20/20.

Couldn't agree more, I think this could get away from Gerry and co so they should be careful what they wish for. I see the Govt pouring cold water on this now that Maryatt is on gardening leave and the Insurance Council is having palpitations.

Gerry has a rep for not being bright, he's a bruiser pure and simple....I'd venture its already got away from him....and indeed the Govn.   So its going to get messier, but its good the Govn will take charge, they and Gerry will deserve everything they'll get Im sure.

The most important thing to do now, is sweap as much of the filth under a huge carpet and ensure that only bottom rung employees of the CCC are blamed for the stench.
The Key question is...can the incompetent use a broom and lift the carpet at the same time!

No-one is in charge at councils. Unlike central government or private companies there is no one person you can look to for leadership and authority. In theory all policy decisions are made by the committees and then get given to staff to implement. In practice this is a crazy arrangement so the mayor and CEO form a team to exercise an informal leadership. When the relationship breaks down the whole council tends to go with it.
It's also worth remembering that the focus of senior management tends to be up towards elected members not down towards staff. The bigger the council the less likely it is that the CEO has any clue what is going on in the engine room.

Kumbel - couldn't have put it better. All structures work because of the folk in them, and fail because of the folk in them. The key element in our surrent structures, though, is the CEO. 40 years ago it was the Secretary or Town Clerk.
Hughey - that's apples with apples? Is Selwyn dealing with the same Geo issues? Is it dealing with re-builds or greenfields?

Ive worked in all of the above, as PDK says the problems or not starts at the top and filters down.  Ive worked in large private companies who are actually worse BTW than public organisations. Small ones, sure, but one thing is pretty clear, there are too many mediocre "managers" who will pass the buck if they can.  Ive learned that the hard way and keep copious notes / email trails of any "discusions"  especially when ppl prefer I phone them rather than email or no records, perfect denial.

"Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee, Local Government Minister Chris Tremain, and Building and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson, said they welcomed the decision by Mayor Bob Parker"
Therein lies the problem 4 Bureaucrats before you begin. Now add Marryatt and all the others.
With all the government interference Canterbury, the South Island, should secede and get on with governing its-self.

The dangerous consenting and governance issues go much deeper than just building consents and staff:
This 4 minute clip will shock you:-

CCC consented non-complying roads that fall well short of NZ and City standards, and safety guidelines in the new LG Yaldhurst zone.
The Elected Council were FULLY notified on it and Bob Parker and Councillor Sue Wells led the 9-4 vote that ultimately meant that the “Elected Council consented them”.
Cr Wells expressed that the cost of fixing the roads that staff had permitted the developer to construct without legal consent, outweighed that of public safety. Bob agreed with his vote.
Since then and the above clip, CCC approved an increase of traffic from 6,000vpd to 11,000vpd (Jan 2013) by specifically instructing the reviewing traffic engineer NOT to review the affects on the already non-complying road.

colin - that does look ridiculous. I assume the work is finished now?
Perhaps at the time (i.e. whilst construction was underway) the community or community board might have tried applying to the Environment Court for an Enforcement Order or Interim Enforcement Order (even better);
Anyone may apply for one under the Act - the application fee was around $40.00 last time I looked (might be a bit more now - but basically, very cheap).  No lawyers needed to fill our the form/make application - and yes, the Judge might consider they cannot rule on it but they do have to consider it - and the circumstances of the variation that were given to the resource consent do look dubious.
If nothing else, such an action in the Environment Court (whether heard/ruled on or not) would perhaps have got the council to pay more attention :-)!
The other thing one might have done is complain to the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, but she might have (quite legitimately) have turned down the request to investigate.

80 sqm sections? is that the standard now?

No 80 sqm is not standard. It is non-compliant. 
The minimum size permitted in this zone is 250 sqm. Council staff agreed with the developer behind closed doors to radicaly depart from the requirements of the City Plan, and from the Councils Infrastructure Design Standards, NZ standards and safety standards for road designs. Front yards were also discarded and garages permitted hard up to both front boundaries on corner sites with cars needing to reverse out blind into traffic.
CCC suppressed the affected public & community their legal right to oppose simply by saying they weren't affected; this despite the fact the community would have to use the roads to acces their properties.

Amazing story/video, it is like a horror movie. I suppose this is the end result of the urban growth limit mania that like cancer has eaten away all that was good about CCC.

It is cancer within CCC. The other developers in this integrated living zone (Delamain & Enterprise Homes) had no problems complying section sizes and safety design standards for roads. CCC is still spending tens and thousands of ratepayer dollars fighting to NOT have safe complying roads here. 

Thanks Kate - ridiculous and dangerous and yes finished but not vested.
The problem was it was so far down the track to completion that an interim order would probably not have helped. CCC enforcement refused to act and CCC staff made it clear they would retrospectively consent the non-complying built roads as a variation.
By the processing staff saying that they didn't believe narrow non-complying roads had adverse affects meant the affected public and community had no legal status under the Resource Management Act to oppose them.
Our traffic engineers review of the non-compliances and dangers, and our lawyers input were futile as our legal status was denied.

Yes, I can imagine in terms of the consent process that you may not have had legal status. But the point with an Enforcement Order with the EC is that you need no legal status - see the section here;
Any person may at any time apply to the Environment Court.....
So no legal status needed. Granted there are other provisions that come into consideration and the Court may have determined it need not rule - but the point is the provision exists and it is not well utilised by the citizenry.  Hence unfortunately there is little case law guidance.
Most RM legal folks I've spoken to will suggest that the clause wasn't really meant for this or that type of matter - but the point is, it is for a Judge of the EC to make that determination - not the legal profession.  Sure, such an action may have a low level of potential success, but the point is it is such a small fee to make an application .. nothing lost, nothing gained is the way I look at it.

The problem was it was so far down the track to completion that an interim order would probably not have helped.
In this regard, if the Court chooses to rule on an order - it has wide ranging powers to determine remedy - regardless of cost to the offender.  In other words, the Court could rule that the road needed to be dug up and put right (i.e. made safe in accordance with whaever the standard for design and safety is).  It could well be that given the consent holder was acting legally in accordance with his/her consent conditions that the cost to remedy would be on the CCC (the consenting authority).

excuse my cynicism - I can smell the stench from here - money has changed hands at some point, somewhere along the line - in the current consents climate the IRD should should be let loose and do a thorough tax audit on everyone involved in these scams - developers, council employees, councillors, engineers - the lot - and not just the CCC

I've come to same conclusion - the same council staff that permitted these non-complying roads to be constructed illegaly without consent, were the same staff that then solicited evidence to support them.
When the developer wanted to increase the traffic volumes on the non-complying roads, these same staff instructed the reviewing traffic engineer NOT to review the affects of the doubling of traffic on them.  

You are exactly right regards CCC liability for this "stuff up" as accepted by CCC's Peter Mitchell.
Councillor Sue Wells "strongly encouraged" the elected council NOT to vote for the necessary judicial review to remedy the unsafe non-complying roads due to the potential costs to the council.

The process of consenting for safe complying new roading, carried out under the same CCC Regulation and Democracy Services unit, is worse than for buildings.
This 4 minute clip might shock you.

love the scenic views - high tension over-head power lines everywhere - who is going to buy and build there? - what type of house plus garage can you build on an 80 sqm section?

Hardly surprising....any  council system cant handle such big events.
Death knell for the Nats as Brownlee spends the next 12months messing it up

Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said............. "any liability owed by the council will need to be met from its own funds."
Dear Gerry,
That means Chch rate payers take the losses, these will be your ex-voters.
I dont think you get it, you'll spend the next 12 months making the issues worse and putting yourself in a hole you wont get out of.
bye bye Gerry.